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Drug, theft case going to trial

But judge criticizes dearth of evidence shown at hearing

SHARE Drug, theft case going to trial

PROVO — A preliminary hearing for a man and woman who police say stole thousands of dollars of construction equipment and tools needed more visual aids, the judge for the case said Friday.

Michael Pino, 39, and his girlfriend Rachelle Humes, 29, were in 4th District Court Friday for a preliminary hearing on charges of drug possession, theft by receiving stolen property, possession of a dangerous weapon and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Prosecutors talked about thousands of dollars in stolen items found in the couple's Provo apartment but didn't bring any pictures and showed only a few items as evidence.

"The state cannot rely upon a notion of a 'room full of stuff,"' said 4th District Judge Gary Stott. "To come forward with the sufficient information to establish the value (of stolen goods) would not have been very difficult to do."

A detective with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force testified about a court-approved search of the couple's Provo apartment on Jan. 31 that yielded a small amount of drugs as well as a roomful of tools, construction equipment and two machetes.

"There were stacks of tool boxes, nail guns, compressors. In the corner (stuff was) stacked 2 feet tall," said detective Steve Norman.

Stott questioned why photos of that evidence weren't brought to the hearing.

Prosecutor Chad Grunander replied that Friday's hearing was just a preliminary hearing and state code does not require prosecutors to show all of their evidence at this point.

"The case evolves over time," Grunander said. "A case gets stronger as it goes along. The state would like to present that there are additional victims who have not testified."

Despite some blunt words, Stott ruled that Grunander, a deputy Utah County attorney, had met the minimum level required at a preliminary hearing and ruled the two cases will go to trial.

The drug charges stem from police finding a glass pipe with melted methamphetamine in the living room and a Baggie of marijuana in the freezer.

However, defense attorney John Easton asked that the drug charges against Humes be dropped, because there was no evidence presented that she actually lived at the apartment.

Stott ruled that testimony about her clothes hanging in the bedroom closet, her credit card in the apartment and her presence there at 4:30 in the morning when the warrant was executed were enough to retain the charges against her, at least in the context of a preliminary hearing.

A second case against Pino was also bound over for trial. In that 2006 case, Pino was charged with two third-degree felonies of burglary and theft for allegedly stealing construction tools from a Provo business in August.

Two other cases against Pino were dismissed Friday. They included charges ranging from forgery, burglary and drug possession to theft and identity fraud, because the state was struggling to get witnesses into court to testify, Grunander said. However, the cases were dismissed in such a way that they can be re-filed if witnesses are located.

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com